Pocket Tactics Presents: A (Quick) Guide to HexWar Games on Mobile19 Feb 2018 6
HexWar games are easily identifiable in the app store by their corner icon of a green die that doubles as a hex shape (and, if you look closely, has hex-shaped pips as well. Talk about commitment to a theme!). They are also easily identifiable in play by their functionally identical but thematically appropriate interfaces laid over a map of gray-green (the most realistic color) hexes with tiny animated sprites.
This mobile wargames company has built a mini-empire in their corner of the app store, churning out new entries with surprising regularity. But are they worth your time? HexWar has experimented with a few different pricing structures on their games, including true premium offerings and free-to-try games with purchasable campaigns.
Let's take a quick look at some of these so you can get an idea as to what they offer.
Standard Template Constructor
All HexWar games use the same basic wargame engine and all the games are AI focused, with no multiplayer, not even pass-and-play. You tap to move each of your units in turn, then the opponent goes. Attacking another unit incurs bonuses and penalties as well as an element of chance. By taking on different time periods, HexWar adapts their engine to the tactical demands of the era. Different games have calculations that match their theme; one will emphasize flanking or give a big bonus to a cavalry charge; another will have various levels of armor. Generals may be available to give troops a boost. It still has limits, as a system, but within that it’s surprisingly flexible.
These are tactical wargames, not grand strategy games. Units are meant to be realistic representations of actual historical units. The games offer a series of short missions organized into campaigns where you will be commanding ground troops against a single opponent. Missions will require you to capture and hold flags or destroy the enemy many times. They are fundamentally about efficiency in how you use your units and the terrain. The player that better understands the capabilities of their own army and their opponent's will be the victor. That said, there are some differences between the different series.
One of HexWar's latest games is another entry in their American Civil War series, Civil War: 1864 [iOS | Android]. This is the year Grant assumed command and took the fight to the rebels and it also includes Sherman's 'March to the Sea' and the capture of Atlanta. The Civil War makes for an interesting topic because of the shifts in technology happening at that time, especially the reduced importance of the cavalry charge. The ACW is possibly the only tactics wargame setting where your cavalry act more like a troop transport, where the men are far more effective dismounted and in a firing line. However, Civil War: 1864 also features the lowest number of distinct units - only ten, although they do come in flavors of recruit to veteran. This could be a boon for some as it simplifies the calculations you need to do before you order the attack, but for true grognards it may not be fine-grained enough.
For something a little more wide-ranging, another recent release is Peninsular War Battles [iOS | Android] which covers Napoleon's campaign into Iberia. HexWar claims this is their most historically accurate game yet, although it's certainly the most detailed with lots of fluff text describing Napoleonic warfare. If wargaming for you is as much about learning about old wars as it is the crunchy bits, Peninsular War might be the ticket. The game also features a lot of tactical options, including formations, generals, flanking and a dozen different classes of troops. Artillery make a big difference here, as do cavalry charges.
Ancient Battle: Rome [iOS | Android] may be relying on Rome: Total War comparisons to draw eyes to its app store page, but it's also a good tactical game in its own right. You're given some unusual units to play with including elephants and catapults and the game has a respectable number of campaigns from the extensive history of Roman conquests throughout Europe; including a mysterious journey into Terra Incognita - Russia.
Because each HexWar game is so similar to the others, it's difficult to recommend one over another. None of them really stand head and shoulders above other HexWar releases, nor even among the other options gamers have available for mobile wargaming. It must also be noted that HexWar do also do licensed adaptations, especially of board wargames like Command & Colours: The Great War [iOS] and 1812: Invasion of Canada [iOS | Android]. That said, they are solid efforts that will require thought and care to complete. If you are passionate about a period of warfare history, go ahead and pick up the HexWar game that will drop you into those battles.